I was quoted somewhat extensively (relatively speaking for newspaper articles) in this piece by Tim Johnson for McClatchy Newspapers (here in The Miami Herald), and thought my readers might want to have a look. Here's a brief excerpt:
"Over a 48-hour period this week, gangsters tossed grenades, torched buses, set up roadblocks and strafed police units in Mexico's second and third largest cities. Assailants in Guadalajara and Monterrey used a variety of tactics. In several assaults, they acted like hit-and-run guerrillas. In other skirmishes, they mimicked small army units. Elsewhere, they hijacked vehicles like common criminals. As gangsters demonstrate an ample repertoire of fighting skills, it is little wonder that four years into President Felipe Calderon's battle against organized crime, many Mexicans aren't sure what to call the turmoil in their country. Is Mexico at war? Does it face a criminal insurgency? Or is it locked in sustained gangland violence?" Link to Full Article
Analysis: This subject matter is fascinating, and probably an entire book could be written about the nature of the conflict in Mexico.
Here's the full text of what I said to Tim in my brief email interview for the article:
"I think 'war' is the only term that can be used right now because anything else that comes closer to being accurate is way too politically sensitive. I believe that drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Mexico have gone way beyond organized crime, and should be considered as hybrids between a mafia, insurgency, and terrorist group based solely on the tactics they're using. In that perspective, then you definitely have a war on your hands because the cartels - while not wanting to take direct control of the state apparatus - want to control it enough through intimidation of state institutions to allow them to operate as a parallel society, in effect.
"That being said, this is not a war that can be won - only managed. You can't clearly define victory in this case, like we were able to do in the Civil War or World War II. What would you use as a benchmark for victory? Drug trafficking and the demand for illegal drugs will never completely go away, and criminal activity will always be present in every country. What defines an acceptable level for these things - and thus 'victory' in a drug war - is completely subjective, and useless if (and when) Mexico and the US disagree on the definition."
Please click on the link and read the whole thing if you get a chance. It's well-written and brings up some really great points and ideas.